EXPRESS YOURSELF: Dancing to the Beat of Your Own Drum

What does it take for one to become ‘free-spirited’? Is it something we strive to being and becoming–or is it second-nature to us as humans?  Does having a ‘free-spirit’ come naturally during our youthful years or is it greatly influenced by the society even beyond our adulthood? Once we recognize our ability to ‘dance to the beat of our own drum’, could we then just say and openly express who we truly are?

Today, the phrase ‘Free Spirit’ is loosely used to refer to our personal quality of being carefree (but not careless), liberal-minded (and inclusive), and vocal (yet tactful).  When used to describe us, the adjective ‘free-spirited’ denotes a state of freedom and glee–oftentimes associated with our drive to express our ideas boldly.  What makes you a ‘Free Spirit’? Are there tell-tale signs to identify you as one? How can one be identified?

The motivational powerhouse Goalcoast, which produces impactful content connecting people who constantly seek authenticity and truth in their lives, shares 

5 Signs of a True Free Spirit.  While being regarded as ‘free-spirited’ is stereotypically-associated with hippies an new-age, Goalcoast simply describes a True Free Spirit to possess the following traits:

  1. Aggressive Independence
  2. Refusal to be Tamed by Fear
  3. Strong Values and Opinions About Life
  4. Unwillingness to be Attached to One Thing
  5. Appreciation for a Deep Understanding of the World

How have we evolved as ‘free-spirited’ humans? What events and episodes shaped and molded us to becoming the courageously expressive beings that we are today? Our ability to express our thoughts in the way we communicate them is reflected in our humanity’s long History of Free Speech particularly seen through the chronicles of the American culture.  From the British Magna Carta of 1215 all the way to the most recent statutes on the US’ First Amendment, we have witnessed and participated in some of the most significant moments in the history of cultural expression. 

Though primarily moved by political currents, the need to express oneself cascaded through other cultural contexts and could be seen in various media and forms.  Though most prominently expressed through peaceful demonstrations, we see how these individual and collective messages spread through equally powerful means such as through film, music, language and literature. The loud and clear messages are no longer just orally verbalized but have also been processed to be viewed, spoken, sung, performed, and read.

Looking back, could we find relationships between terms referring to certain subcultures and are some of them derived from past movements? The term ‘Hepcat’ usually associated with the jazz music of the late 1930s may lead us to Harlem bandleader  Cab Calloway’s “Hepster Dictionary” 1939. A major lingo reference of the ‘Jive’, this glossary contains at least 200 expressions used by the ‘hep cats’and is apparently regarded as the first African-American dictionary.

In the 1950s, we encountered  The Beat Generation,–’a group of authors whose literature explored and influenced American culture in the post-World War II era’.  The bulk of this youth movement’s nonconformist work was published during the decade but continues to bear an impact on San Francisco to this day.  Associated with the term ‘Beatnik’(a portmanteau of the words ‘Beat’ and ‘Sputnik), this generation lived by their own rules and rejected the standard narrative values at that time.  They were brave in experimentation and exploration as they explicitly portrayed human sexual freedom while rejecting materialism.  As a result, they were reputedly identified as the ‘new bohemian hedonists’ who were spontaneously creative while celebrated their being nonconformists.

The following decade gave rise to yet another popular subculture. The rich History of the Hippie Cultural Movement reveals the important role it played in the 1960s. Seen as derogatory, the term ‘hippie’ refers to the left-leaning groups who are often the most affected by episodes of national and international struggles.

Said to be the link between the Beat Generation and the Hippies,  Ken Kesey and his ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’–was a milestone writing turned film–which represented his first hippie group together with The Merry Pranksters.  Known for their ‘Acid Tests’, the group’s popularity in the American society was sealed by this major event where they drank Kool-Aid laced with the psychedelic drug LSD.  

Within the same period, student protests emerged and most memorable was that year-long debate and demonstration at the University of Southern California in Berkeley.  Fueled by the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, it was regarded as the first college campus mass civil disobedience.  A Visual History of the Free Speech Movement, 1964 shows a detailed visual timeline of its 50 year history including memorable milestones achieved by its prime movers. Today, we recognize the triumph and sweet success of Mario Savio and Jack Weinberg whose activism and courage pioneered the Free Speech Movement.

As a major social event in San Francisco, The Summer of Love 1967 gathered a hundred thousand hippies, musicians, and artists–where they openly embraced ‘free love’ and challenged the society’s expectations as they wore flowers on their hair–hence the term ‘Flower Children’.  While it was associated primarily with San Francisco as the main venue, hippies convened in major cities across Europe, America, and Canada,

When we hear the term ‘Hippie’ (as it was described to be reminiscent of the psychedelic era), do we confuse it with the term ‘Hipster?’ Are they one and the same? These terms actually share commonalities and contradictions. Both described as being free-spirited, the latter term  Hipster may represent the contemporary subculture broadly associated with indie and alternative music. It may still be traced back however to its 1940s ancestor ‘Hepcat’ while it has morphed into a new character during its reemergence in the 1990s and every decade thereafter.  In the early 2000s in fact, there came  The Hipster Handbook–ironically guiding by the cardinal rule: ‘never admit that you are a hipster’.

What makes you a hipster then? Here are some indicators:

  • You frequently use the abbreviated term ‘PoMo’–referring to Post-Modern–as an adjective, a noun, or a verb,
  • You keep an unwashed look for your hair
  • You have a messenger bag worn on your shoulder
  • You wear a horn-rimmed, tortoise-shell pair of eyeglasses.

But what do these two terms have in common? The article published by Groovy History wittingly compares and contrasts Hippies vs Hipsters .  While Hippies are easily recognized through their psychedelic flared fashion, Hipsters on the other hand are perceived to follow the latest fashion trends outside the cultural mainstream and avoid wearing labels (and being labeled). According to the article, things they share in common though include the following:

  • They are both counter-culture groups who are nonconformists.
  • They believe in plant-based diets.
  • They dress to purposely appear ‘ugly’.
  • They both hate carbon footprints and prefer to use fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • They wear pants that emphasize the genitals.
  • The women wear no makeup and have poorly-cut bangs.

Quite interestingly, they also differ in certain ways:

  • Hipsters are not known to smoke while Hippies smoke weed.
  • Hipsters wear skinny jeans while Hippies wear bell-bottoms.
  • Hipsters spend money to appear poor while Hippies are poor and live on little.
  • Hipsters wear dull colors while Hippies wear tie dye, bright colors, low v-neck shirts, and feathers.
  • Hipsters wear hairstyles that look like they have aspergers while Hippies fight against aspergers.
  • Hipsters are unconcerned with life while Hippies seek to find the meaning of it.

As we encounter these free-spirited personas, we curiously begin to assess our own.  Without shame and fully-embracing our inner truths, we begin to rediscover ourselves and realize our traits, actions, and thoughts.  How do you now express yourself and what drumbeat do you dance to? More excitingly, what colors do you resonate with as you reveal your thoughts and emotions? What chromatic expressions do you portray ay you uncover your HUEmanity? 

Cover Photo by Offsyz from Pexels

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